Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Snapshots of Lake Windermere

The green hills that rise above
Lake Windermere
(the largest lake in England)
are still the dominion of Beatrix Potter --
the woman who helped immortalize
a particular kind of English cosiness:
of vegetable patches and garden gates
rocking chairs by the fire
and cambric tea.

Here is the garden path
that Tom Kitten tripped down.
He, and all of the other pastel products
of Beatrix Potter's imagination,
are part of Hill Top.

The popularity of those tiny tales
gave Beatrix Potter the income
to buy a house of her own.
At the age of 41,
she was finally able to break free
of the Victorian vise
of her parents' care.
Photography isn't allowed in the dim,
interior still-life of Hilltop.
This group of Japanese tourists
wielded umbrellas, not cameras.

Hilltop is like a grown-up doll's house,
furnished for one person's taste and comfort.
It has a treasure room
and dolls who were born two centuries ago.
Completely unchanged,
it feels like a place preserved
by a sleeping beauty spell. . .
if only someone would just light the fire
and put the kettle on.

The books mirror the house:
Here is the spinning wheel,
the wooden dresser full of china,
the open fire,
the flagstone floor,
the gleaming grandfather clock
and the thick oriental carpet.
Eventually, Beatrix Potter
owned 4000 acres of land
in the Lake District.
Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck
were supplanted
by her interest in real animals,
particularly Herdwick sheep.
She left the land and the herds of sheep
Perhaps this solitary ewe,
grazing near the house,
is an heir
of one of her prize-winners.
After her father died,
Beatrix Potter bought her mother a house
in nearby Bowness.
(Today, Bowness is the home
and a dozen sweet shops.)

Mother and daughter were separated
by Lake Windermere and the hills
that rose above it;
close, but not too close.
You can drive around the lake,
but it's faster to take the ferry
or perhaps one of these little red boats
across the water.
The fog followed us
as we walked around the lake.
Not a good day for sailing . . .
the boats looked like toys
abandoned in a bathtub.

If the day is too damp
for walking,
you can just admire the view
The tea is served in silver pots,
with a salver of shortbread.

36 comments:

Sabrina said...

Lovely photos. Thank you so much for sharing. I reminds me of the time when I used to live in the Midlands.

Sabrina

JC said...

That is so cool
The photos & the story

ArtSparker said...

A lovely synopsis of her biography - Oh, that path!

Catalyst said...

Lovely post and photos, Bee. I have recently watched the movie "Miss Potter" in which Beatrix is portrayed by Renee Zellweger. I thought it was quite good.

marja-leena said...

Lovely! Now I want to see this and the rest of the Lake District the next time we come to England. I saw a portion of that movie Catalyst mentioned and liked what I saw of the characterization of a fiercely independent woman.

CashmereLibrarian said...

i really think I would like to live in England. i like water and hills and I don't mind fog.

Then again, I could always move to San Francisco...

Thanks for another gorgeous post, Bee!

steven said...

hey bee, such a beautiful and storytelling post!! as a kid i wasn't as drawn to beatrix potter as i was to a.a. milne but as an adult reading all this about her for the first time i think - oh girl, you were a canny operator for parlaying your pastel anthropomorphisms into real estate!!!! i wonder if she ever dated or married?
i love the fog in the north of england. but plant me in a peat grough with a campstove hissing up a mug of something good or waking up in a four poster in a good hotel somewhere on a hillside if it's going to be foggy!! have a peaceful evening. steven

Cyndy said...

Bee, thank you for sharing these lovely trips with us! I have really enjoyed tagging along with you! Today's stories and posts especially match what I see of England in my mind's eye. I am so glad it is being preserved, both in trusts and in your posts.

Sarah Laurence said...

How much fun to see Tom’s garden! Interesting details and images of BP’s life. It does look very wet – poor you. That last image is especially lovely. It could almost be Maine.

Beth said...

I want to see inside that house! Went to the link, tried Google - guess there’s only one way... ;)

Have you ever considered writing a travel guide to England? You’re that good.

Elizabeth said...

The lake shots with the boats are so wonderful.
How lovely to buy a house with your own writing money .......
Yes, you are a fabulous tour guide .
The rain somehow makes it all rather melancholy.

Sig said...

Having seen Beatrix's world (the real oe not the animatronic attraction)caught frozen on camera with text - It struck me that there is some arroganc ein not only freezing your time in your house but also in the views. I thought this sort of thing only happened in Dr Who and wicked witches in fairytales. On one hand it's delightful but there is a potential sinster control freakery to it !

willow said...

Such an idyllic place. And rich with history. I would love to visit. I'm green with Beatrix envy.

Fantastic Forrest said...

Your photos and text make rain and grey skies appealing. Given my love of sunshine, that's saying a lot. :-)

You're making me reconsider France as our next sabbatical location. We may have to move to England instead...

Delwyn said...

Hi Bee

thanks for taking me back to Peter Rabbit...

what a path - and just as I imagined...

Happy days

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Oh darn. I'm sorry we missed the Lake District. I feel like I saw so much in England in our 2.5 years there, but I know we missed probably 95% of it. Hope to see more.

Beautiful post, Bee! XO

Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

Bee
Thanks for sharing your pictures and post. My favorite pictures would have to be the boats with the fog and the sheep.
Tracy :)

Polly said...

I'm not so sure you need that Nikon, your pictures are great!

Wonderful description - in form of a poem :-) It made me want to go to Lake District tomorrow and see Hilltop. I can't believe I've missed it!

I hope you're well and that your holiday was good and I look forward to seeing you again sometime in the near future

julochka said...

you make literary england seem so near and so romantic. all we've got here are brooding danish princes and syphilitic african imperialists...sigh.

Alyson (New England Living) said...

I loved your description of Hilltop. Utterly charming.

Your photography is really looking amazing as well.

Celeste Maia said...

Lovely post and photographs, especially the one of the path, so inviting. I have many of Beatrix Potter's children books, and two of the many biographies of her. One "Her Life in the Lake District", by W.R. Michell, and my favorite "The Tale of Beatrix Potter, a biography", by Margaret Lane. I love her drawings. So reading your entry and looking at the photographs brought me a lot of joy. To know that her ashes were scattered over those lands.

Isabel said...

You have NO idea how much I would love to visit there. When I was in college I took a fantastic class "Women in History" as my last History Seminar and did an extensive research paper on Potter. Her life was inspiring in many ways.
I wrote about her recently on my blog:

http://a-room-of-one-s-own.blogspot.com/2009/07/mushrooms-alice-and-beatrix.html

You lucky girl!!!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

This was a lovely post, very interesting. I've been to the Lakes many times, esp Windermere, but I've never visited Beatrix Potter's home. Thank you for sharing these beautiful photographs.

CJ xx

spudballoo said...

Oh so wonderful! your photos are gorgeous. Ssssh, a secret, I find BP very dull. i can just about put up with Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggywinkle and the Flopsy Bunnies but otherwise YAWN. Velly tedious...

Anne said...

It's been said in many other comments, but there's really no word that's better suited to this post than "lovely." Love the photos, love the tidbits about Beatrix Potter. Potter's stories, particularly Peter Rabbit, always make me think of my maternal grandmother. She would take me through her vegetable garden and show me all of the little plants and what they grew into. We have pictures of her teaching me to "pat pat" the soil around a plant as you're putting it into the ground. Fond memories.

herhimnbryn said...

Such glorious greeny wetness.

Bee said...

Thanks, everyone, for the kind comments. I will be away for a few days . . . so catch up with you soon!

Nancy said...

I loved Beatrix and her stories. My daughter, at 26, still has her bunny given her by a friend when she was a baby. Thanks for taking us along on this tour. I think England to be so beautiful.

Lucy said...

I love the idea of a salver of shortbread on a rainy day!

Some years ago I was teaching two very bright little girls of about 5 and 7 at home. Someone had given them the complete Beatrix Potter, and it was like a complete reading scheme; from the almost textless simple picture narrative of 'The Fierce Bad Rabbit', to quite long complex stories like Jeremy Fisher, and every stage in between. Only it was far more charming than most modern reading schemes.

There was a wonderful radio play ages ago about her later years, with Patricia Routledge, I think...

IRENE said...

Thank you for the wonderful tour. My children grew up with BP's tales, and we all liked the film.
P.S. I adore your roses.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

The most enchanting place. Beatrix is a heroine of mine. A truly remarkable lady. Lovely post! I am traveling with you!

Sara said...

Oh, I'm so enchanted by these photos and your narration. My husband and I were in the Lake District in June but we had to miss out on most of these sights you are showing us. There is so much to see (we were on a tour of England with a bit of Wales thrown in)!

Elizabeth alerted me to your blog so I came by for a visit. I hope you don't mind, I added you to my blogroll.

Anna said...

Hey Bee this post is so so cool, excellent images, and my fav is the sheep. Anna :)

Merisi said...

Beautiful impressisons of an enchanting part of your country!

Windermere is very much en vogue these days, I have seen it on at least 2 other blogs lately, one of them in California! I never even knew about the Lake District, now I want to go there myself. ;-)

A Thousand Clapping Hands said...

You get Alice and Beatrix. What do I have - Big Tex. Not fair.
Catherine

Shaista said...

All your posts are journeys into something or somewhere, but these Lake District pieces are my favourite. Have you watched 'Miss Potter'? Absolutely beautiful depiction of her life. I hope to make these trips someday too xx